Parliamentary, My Dear Watson
By Allison Mazur
May 23, 2016
This past semester I took a political science course (PLS334 Campaigns & Elections) although I’m a Comm major – I wanted to round out my education, you know? The class was actually interesting (I’d recommend it, especially during an election year!), and I learned about how the American political system compares to other countries’ systems.
Today we took a tour of the Irish Parliament, also known as the Dáil, with an amazing guide who was extremely well-versed in how Parliament operates. Between his knowledge, and what I gleaned from PLS334, I thought I would briefly compare Ireland’s and the United States’ political systems for this post.
In the United States, we have a plurality voting system which favors two parties: the Democrats and Republicans. However, in a lot of other countries they have proportional representation systems which favor multiple parties. I personally like proportional representation systems because I think they are effective in representing minority interests and voters can find a party more in line with their particular interests.
Ireland has a proportional representation system featuring a few different political parties including Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Fine Gael, and the Labour Party. Independent parties can also gain seats in Parliament, but the above listed are the main parties. It has been cool to see all of the political campaigns plastered around the different neighborhoods in Dublin, advertising for various candidates. Our guide today said many seats are up for election, so the current majority party may switch over after the upcoming election.
Ireland also has an upper and lower house, comparable to the United States’ Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. In Ireland the upper house is the Seanad Éireann, comparable to the Senate in the United States. In the US the Senate has more power, but in Ireland the lower house, the Dáil, is more powerful. The sixty members of the Seanad Éireann are elected through a variety of ways, but not by the general public. Members of the Dáil Éireann, comparable to the US House of Representatives, are elected by the general public and an election is held at least every five years. In the Dáil, members of each party are seated together, which is helpful for the public because they can see how each party is voting during a bill’s vote.
It was cool to see up close how a different form of government operates. After learning about the difference between plurality and proportional representation systems, it makes me question just how effective the United States’ system is. Following our informative tour of the Dáil, we celebrated the traditional Irish way: enjoying a pint of Guinness.